Dramatic Responses to the Resurgence of Antisemitism: On Trial – the Blood Libel, Arnold Wesker and Steven Berkoff

Stähler, Axel (2021). Dramatic Responses to the Resurgence of Antisemitism: On Trial – the Blood Libel, Arnold Wesker and Steven Berkoff (In Press). In: Malkin, Jeanette R.; Voigts, Eckart; Ablett, Sarah Jane (eds.) A Companion to British-Jewish Theatre since the 1950s. Methuen Drama Engage (pp. 104-120). London: Methuen

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In its various manifestations, anti-Semitism has had an impact on Jewish existence since antiquity. A significant paradigm change occurred in the Middle Ages with religiously motivated Christian anti-Semitism, or anti-Judaism. In this period originates the blood libel of Christian provenance, though in this case, too, earlier manifestations are known. The blood libel refers to the fabricated allegation that Jews murder Christian children in a mockery of the passion of Christ in order to obtain blood for ritualistic purposes. First formulated in 1144 in Norwich, instances of the blood libel have persisted well into the twentieth century. The British-Jewish dramatist Stephen Laughton recently referred to the blood libel as one of the four pillars of anti-Semitism (2018). This chapter investigates how Arnold Wesker and Stephen Berkoff, representatives of an earlier generation of British-Jewish playwrights, have dramatized historical instances of the blood libel in response to resurgences of anti-Semitism specifically in Britain. Wesker’s Blood Libel (1996) and Berkoff’s Ritual in Blood (1965/2000) present the blood libel as the result of selfish intrigues of individuals or small interest groups who by means of demagogy and the exploitation of superstition as well as economic anxieties incite an eruption of collective hysteria directed at the Jewish other. Both plays engage critically, if in very different ways, in particular with the specific juridical discourse that has developed around the commemoration of ritual murder accusations, and it is argued that the two dramatists seek to subvert its trajectory through their interpellation.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures > American Studies
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures > Literary Theory

UniBE Contributor:

Stähler, Axel

Subjects:

800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures

ISBN:

9781350135963

Series:

Methuen Drama Engage

Publisher:

Methuen

Language:

English

Submitter:

Axel Stähler

Date Deposited:

08 Mar 2021 10:37

Last Modified:

08 Mar 2021 10:37

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/153078

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